Eric Menk heads Danny Ildefonso’s list of the toughest players he ever faced

Sep 24, 2020

DANNY Ildefonso is an eight-time PBA champion, two-time MVP, and a five-time Best Player of the Conference. Without a doubt, he is one of the best players of his time, or any time.

But even so, he has his own list of challenging competitors that made his life miserable in the hardcourt.

“May sampung players akong linista na pinahirapan ako nung naglalaro pa ako. Pare-parehas itong magaling para sa akin, sila ang mga nakasabayan ko na nag-push sa akin para pag-igihan ko pa ang laro ko,” he said in a video posted in his own YouTube channel.

Although he did have a disclaimer that these players weren't arranged in order, Ildefonso still followed a numerical order as he bared the Top Ten big men he’s ever faced in his entire career.


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10. ALI PEEK

At 6-foot-4, Peek was undersized for his position, but Ildefonso admitted he’s not an easy opponent.

“Hindi katangkaran na sentro pero malapad ang katawan. Malakas at kung titignan mo siya pang-wrestler ang build niya. Marunong tumakbo at nakaka-dunk din,” he said. “’Pag kalaban ko siya, sa bilis ng takbo ko siya dinadaan kasi di ko masyado kaya makipag-palakasan sa kanya sa loob [ng court].”


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9. BONG HAWKINS

Ildefonso cannot forget the former Alaska forward for the heartache he brought him during their battles.

“Siya din nagpaiyak sa akin ‘nung 1998. Nirerespeto ko," he said of the undersized but effective forward out of Perpetual Help. "Hindi rin matangkad at athletic pero effective pag naglalaro, at maraming naitutulong sa team.”


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8. MARLOU AQUINO

This 6-foot-9 who now plays for Bacoor in the MPBL also happens to be Ildefonso’s provincemate. But Aquino, too, proved a headache for Danny I.

“Si kababayan lakay Marlou Aquino. Isa sa pinakamatangkad na players na na-produce ng Pangasinan. Dati ‘pag kalaban namin Sta. Lucia, ang [training] namin pagka-rebound takbo na, dadaanin sa takbo," explained Ildefonso.


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7. BENJIE PARAS

Unlike most on this list, prime Benjie played well ahead of Danny I’s time. However, in the short span of time he faced Paras, it definitely made a mark on him.

“Saglit lang kami nagkalaban pero nakita naman natin ang laro niya, mga championships nila. Nahirapan talaga ako at na-challenge ako, kasi, pag naka-bwelo siya, sasama ka sa ring eh,” he said.


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6. CHRIS JACKSON

Probably one of the league’s greatest defenders of all time. Ildefonso can attest to the “stonewall” nickname Jackson earned in his career.

“Maliit pero pinahirapan ako sa opensa. ‘Pag binangga mo siya ramdam mo ‘yung wall talaga. Tapos, pag nag-init, sunud-sunod na three points,” Lakay Danny described Jackson.


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5. DENNIS ESPINO

“Hindi siya mabilis, hindi rin athletic pero pinahirapan niya ako opensa at sa depensa. Effective sa PBA at maging sa international. ‘Pag umikot, siko pumupunta sa dibdib ko,” he said of the 6-foot-6 former Sta Lucia standout.


4. RUDY HATFIELD

Even before they met in the PBA, Ildefonso bared he already had an eye on this Filipino-American player who starred in the rival MBA.

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Hatfield's work ethic was off the charts, he bared.

Ildefonso said: “Kakaiba. Hindi siya ganon ka-skilled pero kahit sinong coach sa PBA gugustuhin siyang kunin dahil sa sipag. Kahit saan mapunta ang bola, andon siya. Nakakainis kalaban kasi dalawa ang babantayan mo sa depensa — hindi sapat yung box out lang. Kailangan kay Rudy mabilis din gumalaw ang paa mo kasi gagawa siya ng paraan, minsan duma-dive pa.”


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3. SONNY THOSS

This Fil-German big man also gave Danny I fits.

“Aggressive sa loob. Magaling dumepensa at sanay sa sistema. Pag nabagsakan mo sa loob, dadakutin niya talaga,” he said of the recently retired Alaska big man.


2. ASI TAULAVA

The oldest active PBA player at 48, Ageless Asi proved a handful for Danny I. Lakay admitted he couldn't have contained Asi without the help of his teammates.

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“Talagang dominant nung panahon niya, grabe siyang mag-weights sa gym kaya ang lakas din sa laro. ‘The Rock’ talaga. Mahirap bantayan kasi malakas, matangkad, at mabigat,” he said.


1. ERIC MENK

Topping Danny I’s list of his most challenging opponents, Menk earned the respect of Ildefonso even before their PBA days.

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From the time they played against each other in the PBL, Ildefonso revealed Menk inspired him to be at his best.

"Ito [ang] nag-push sa'kin na hindi magre-relax, and sa practice kailangan ko isipin na siya ang nakakalaban ko and kailangan nabubuhat ko ang nabubuhat niya, lahat talaga. Nasa kanya lahat, strength, utak, at makulit din kalaban.”

He continued: “Iniidolo ko 'to, mula amateur sa PBL nakakalaban ko na siya pero nauna ako nag-PBA sa kanya. Siya, special draft. MVP din. Footwork, shooting, depensa, magaling ‘to. Pati injury parehas kami. Syempre ayaw ko magpatalo kasi Ilocano ako, malinis kalaro, palakasan, pagalingan, kaya siya ang number one."

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    Summing up his list, Ildefonso shared that he owes a big part of his career and personal improvement to these competitors who have challenged him from Day One.

    “Sila ang inspirasyon, nag-push sa akin everyday nung naglalaro pa ako. Naging successful ako dahil sa kanila. Hindi ako pwede mag-relax,” he ended.

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